with that artillery ought to have held it; but the command devolved upon a very good gentleman, but a very young officer, entirely inexperienced in these matters. The enemy rushed on the Fort from two or three directions, and confused him, I think, and broke him and carried it. The information which I have from all sources, official and otherwise, is that — whether by permission of their officers, or contrary to their permission, I cannot say — a butchery took place there that is unexampled in the record of civilized warfare. We always expect, in case of a place carried by assault, that some extravagance of passion will occur; but this seems to have been continued after resistance had ceased, when there was nothing to keep up the hot blood, and to have been of a nature brutal to an extent that is scarcely credible, and I have embodied in my official report to General McPherson (my present superior officer) my opinion that the black troops will hereafter be uncontrollable, unless the government take some prompt and energetic action upon the subject. I know very well that my colored regiments at Memphis, officers and men, will never give quarter. Question. They never ought to. Answer. They never will. They have sworn it; and I have some very good colored regiments there. Question. What do you say of the fighting qualities of the colored troops? Answer. That depends altogether upon their officers. If they are properly officered, they are just as good troops as any body has. I have two or three regiments at Memphis that I am willing to put anywhere that I would put any soldiers which I have ever seen, with the same amount of experience. Question. Did you learn any thing of the particulars of those atrocities that were committed there at Fort Pillow? Answer. I learned the particulars from the reports of the officers. Question. Did you learn any thing about any flags of truce being taken advantage of? Answer. They always do that; that is a matter of habit with them. Question. And they took advantage of them in this case, as you learn? Answer. Yes, sir; and they did it at Paducah, and they tried it at Columbus. Question. Did you hear any thing about their setting fire to hospitals, while the wounded were in there? Answer. I learn, from what I consider unquestionable authority, that bodies were found which had been wounded by musket-shots, and then their eyes bayoneted out; men wounded in a similar way, with their bowels cut open; and I have heard many other instances of equal barbarity. Question. Did you hear, recently after that capture, of any body being nailed to a building and burned? Answer. I heard that Lieutenant Akerstrom was so treated. Question. Did you learn that from a source that you could give credit to? Answer. I had no reason to doubt it, with the exception of the identification of the body. The fact that somebody was so treated, I consider to be sufficiently proven; the identification, I think, is doubtful. Question. Is there any thing more you wish to state? If so, will you state it without further questioning? Answer. I do not know that I can state any thing more than my opinion in regard to certain things that might have been done. I do not know that it is worth while to do that. As I am under censure myself, at present, I prefer not to. Question. Will you give us a description of the situation of Fort Pillow? Answer. It is a very difficult thing to describe. The original fortifications, as made by the rebels, were very much too large to be held by any force that we could spare. It was intended for a very large force; but there are two crowning heights — bold knobs — that stand up there, which command the entire region of approach, and which Major Booth was directed to occupy. He went up and examined the ground, and reported to me. A light work was thrown up upon one of them, and there was a portion of a work upon the other. The one to the south was not occupied during the fight; the one to the north of the ravine, which leads down to the landing, was occupied. That was the point which I considered should have been held; and I think yet it could have been, and would have been, if Major Booth had lived. Question. Can you describe the position in which the men were placed by Major Booth? Answer. Major Booth had his artillery upon this knoll, and held the slope of the hill with some rifle-pits. From these rifle-pits, as I am informed, he repulsed the enemy. The troops were afterward drawn in by Major Bradford, into the fortifications proper, and that was attacked on all sides. My opinion is, that Major Bradford lost his head — got confused. The rush was too strong for him. The amount of the enemy's force that actually attacked there I do not know, but from all the testimony I could get, I should judge it to have been not less than two thousand five hundred men. Question. Who do you understand led the enemy's forces? Answer. Forrest was there personally. I understand, however, that the main body of the force was Chalmers's command, who was also there. There was also a portion of Forrest's force there. Forrest will carry his men further than any other man I know of; he is desperate. Question. Have we any force at Fort Pillow now? Answer. No, sir. Question. Do you consider that a point which should be occupied by a force, in order to make the navigation of the river safe? Answer. I do.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Doc . 3 .-attack on the defences of Mobile .
Surrender of Fort Powell .
Battle of Olustee .
Battle of Pleasant Hill .
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.